Olivier Le Moal - Fotolia

Backup appliances offer easy backup for SMEs and branch offices

Product survey: We run the rule over backup appliances; hardware and software bundles that enable easy deployment and management of backup for SMEs and remote offices

A backup appliance takes backup software and embeds it into hardware with its own onboard disk storage.

Backup appliances provide a simple way to deliver backup services without the need for dedicated backup staff to set up or administer them. That makes backup appliances well-suited to use cases that include SMEs and branch offices of large enterprises, while the larger backup appliances are appropriate for smaller datacentre operations.

There are a number of backup appliances available, varying by capacity, throughput and intended use case. They also vary by features, with differences in the backup software offered and data deduplication functionality, for example.

Archiving of backup data to the cloud is almost universal, along with data deduplication, which was an optional extra not long ago.

Integrated support for hypervisors is often limited to VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V, which supply APIs to backup software makers and offer varying levels of backup granularity. Other hypervisors, however, are not usually so well supported but backups by other methods that are less versatile may be possible.

Below is a summary of backup appliances available from key suppliers.


Arkeia offers three enterprise-level backup appliances with capacities between 4TB and 48TB with field upgrades available. They are 2U rack-mounted; the RA4300 includes an optional LTO-5 tape drive; the RA5300 includes 360GB of flash capacity and the RA6300 480GB of flash. All run WD Arkeia 10.1 backup software.

The entry-level RA4300 includes two 1GbE ports, the rest offer four ports. Fibre Channel (8Gbps) and dual-port 10GbE are options on the RA5300 and RA6300. All support optional data deduplication.

Optional encryption at source using AES-256, Blowfish 448-bit or Triple DES is handled by backup agents.

Management is via web-based console or the command line. Arkeia offers a one-time licence that includes unlimited agents, deduplication at source and at the target. Support for virtualised environments includes VMware and Hyper-V (via APIs), Citrix and Parallels (via command line) and Red Hat Enterprise Virtualisation (via an agent on guest OS).

Remote replication and encryption are optional.


Barracuda Backup's six-strong enterprise product line ranges from 500GB to 102TB in terms of capacity. All are rack-mounted, with sizes from 1U for the 390, 490 and 690, 2U for the 890, 3U for the 990 and 4U for the 1090.  All except the 990 and 1090 offer 1GbE connectivity; the largest two models connect using 10GbE over copper.

256-bit AES encryption is offered to and from offsite locations when the appliance acts as a cloud gateway. Backup agents are included for Linux, and for Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server, Hyper-V, and Windows components, such as the registry and Active Directory.

The web-based management console allows organisations to manage multiple sites centrally with administrators able to define roles for access to each location.

The appliance is a one-time purchase, with cloud storage subscriptions sold in 200GB increments, security updates such as anti-spam, anti-virus, anti-spyware, and intrusion prevention are available as options for one, three or five years.


Dell's 2U rack-mounted DR4100 Disk Backup Appliance offers capacities up to 27TB and includes Dell's (formerly Quest) NetVault Backup software but is also certified to work with vRanger, AppAssure V4.X, CommVault Simpana, Symantec NetBackup and BackupExec, EMC Networker, Veeam, IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM), CA Arcserve, and Oracle RMAN.

It connects via two 10GbE copper or fibre ports for a throughput of up to 7.5TB/hr and is managed either via a web-based dashboard, or remotely via Dell's iDRAC 7 controller. Data deduplication is inline and at either the source or target. No encryption is included.

The DR4100 comes with Dell’s "perpetual" licence, which means customers get all future software and firmware updates at no extra cost.


Eversync, formerly Revinetix, offers appliances with data deduplication and maximum raw capacities from 6TB to 176TB, all running the company's own backup software.

Two 1GbE ports are offered on the 1000, 1500 and 2000 models, the 2700 offers four ports, and the 4500 and 9500 provide six ports. In addition, the 2000, 2700, 4500, and 9500 can each house an optional pair of 10GbE ports.

The system includes agents for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X machines and supports agentless backup and recovery of VMware and Hyper-V.

Throughput performance ranges from 150GB/hr (the 1000) to 1TB/hr (the 4500 and 9500). 256-bit AES encryption is included.

Management is via a web-based GUI or a mobile application – Android or iOS – and the appliance allows all users to back up and restore using an unlimited number of servers and clients.


HP's StoreOnce appliance capacities range from 8TB in the 1U 2700 up to the 42U datacentre-level 6500 with 2240TB.

Ports provided range from four 1GbE ports for the 2700 model, and an added four 8Gbps Fibre Channel ports and two 10GbE ports on the 4500. The 4700 and 4900 gain two further Fibre Channel ports, and the 6500 houses a total of eight 1GbE ports, eight Fibre Channel ports, and four 10GbE ports, per pair of devices (what HP calls a couplet), with a maximum of four couplets possible.

Data throughput levels range from 3.7TB/hr for the StoreOnce 2700 to 139TB/hr for the 6500.

On-disk encryption is an optional extra and is chargeable according to capacity. Management of backup and restore is performed via a console application that is available for Windows, HP-UX and Linux.

StoreOnce appliances run HP Data Protector backup software, which is licensed by core functionality and then extensions according to target system capacity, plus extensions for features such as encryption, granular recovery and high density tape libraries. Licences are tied to groups of OS platforms so a Windows licence will not cover use on Linux or Unix, for example.


STORserver's four-strong series of appliances ranges from a base capacity of 3TB in the EBA800, 5TB in the EBA 1200, 7TB in the EBA 2200 and 10TB in the EBA3200. All appliances can be expanded by adding disk shelves.

All appliances except the EBA3200 can be powered either by CommVault or IBM TSM; the EBA3200 runs only on TSM.

Licensing depends on the software selected, with CommVault licensed either per machine, per application or by the size of the data to be backed up. TSM can be licensed either by capacity of the data backed up, by processor value units (PVU), which is sized by processor power and capacity, or by core, which is calculated by averaging the PVU for all cores and counting the number of cores in a machine.

CommVault offers a range of data encryption technologies: 64-bit Blowfish, GOST, 128-bit AES, Serpent, Twofish and Triple DES. TSM offers 256-bit AES.

Transfer rates start at 1TB/day and reach 10TB/day with the EBA3200.

Users of IBM TSM can run a console that allows management of multiple appliances. CommVault users get the backup application's automated, policy-driven processes and web-based reporting.


Symantec offers two backup appliances, the Backup Exec 3600 and the NetBackup 5230.

Aimed at smaller businesses, the 1U Backup Exec 3600 runs Backup Exec 2012, is managed via a web console with a single admin account, and offers 5.5TB after RAID, connectivity via four USB, and four 1GbE ports, and one SAS port for connecting to tape. TSL/SSL encryption is used to protect data in flight. A licence protects any number of clients and includes replication, data deduplication, and tape library support.

The 2U NetBackup 5230 runs NetBackup 7.6 with capacities from 4TB to 76TB with the ability to add storage shelves, and includes encryption for data both in-flight and at rest. It is managed using Symantec's NetBackup OpsCenter management console.

Connectivity consists of four 1GbE ports, up to four 10GbE ports and up to 10 8Gbps FC ports. A licence protects any number of clients and includes bare metal restore, 256-bit AES encryption of data at source, replication, data deduplication, and tape library support.


Unitrends offers a series of appliances from 1U to 4U with between 4TB and 97TB of raw storage. The largest, the Recovery-943 offers four 1GbE ports, with an optional four 1GbE and two 10GbE ports, plus one 8Gbps Fibre Channel port. The base model Recovery-712 provides two 1GbE ports.

The systems run Unitrends 7.3 backup software, and management is via web console and includes reporting and monitoring of all operations. Support for virtualised environments may become available following the company's acquisition in December 2013 of virtual backup specialist PHD Virtual Technologies.

One licence includes snapshots, replication, data deduplication, bare metal recovery, and AES 256-bit encryption, all for an unlimited number of clients. Archiving to the cloud is also available.


Read more on Data protection, backup and archiving